Roland Garros Rewind: Monfils Stuns, Nadal Survives, Sharapova and Radwanska Cruise
Welcome back to your daily review of the studs and duds at Roland Garros 2013.
Match of the day: Five sets and four hours. Three tiebreaks and a 7-5 final set. A two-set lead squandered by the man who eventually won—after saving triple break point midway through the fifth. A home underdog firing 26 aces and 66 winners on his nation’s biggest stage to upset a top-eight seed who hit 72 winners of his own. Rarely is the match that looks like the best of the day in the first round actually the best of the day, but Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych put on perhaps the best show of any men’s match that we will see all week. The section has opened a bit for Monfils if he can defuse the equally dangerous dark horse Ernests Gulbis in the second round. That match looks like the highlight of Thursday, although it has a hard act to follow.
Comeback of the day: Last week’s Dusseldorf champion Juan Monaco looked well on his way to a routine victory when he won the first two sets by single-break margins and reached a tiebreak in the third. Perhaps aided by his opponent’s fatigue, Daniel Gimeno-Traver thrust himself back into the match by snatching that tiebreak and stormed all the way back to an upset over the seventeenth seed.
Surprise of the day: It was not an upset in the end, but Daniel Brands surely turned more heads than anyone when he came within a tiebreak of leading Rafael Nadal by two sets to love. The master of Roland Garros had not lost the first set in a first-week match there since 2006, although he once survived a five-setter against John Isner. Brands channeled his inner Soderling in explosive serving and bullet forehands that thrust Nadal on his heels for far longer than anyone could have expected.
Gold star: Australian youngster Nick Kyrgios gave his nation something to cheer amid the latest Bernard Tomic controversy. Kyrgios defeated veteran Radek Stepanek in three tiebreaks, saving several set points in each of the last two. The 53 total tiebreak points played might survive as a tournament record.
Silver star: Allez les bleus. While Nadal battled with Brands on Philippe Chatrier, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rolled through in straight sets on Suzanne Lenglen. Later in the day, second-ranked Frenchman Richard Gasquet did the same, and even Julien Benneteau won a match on clay for just the second time this year. Combined with the Monfils upset, these victories added up to an excellent day for the hosts.
Wooden spoon: When Andy Murray withdrew, Marcel Granollers moved up from unseeded to seeded position. That promotion served him no benefit as he lost his first match to countryman Feliciano Lopez in five sets and two days. By contrast, Tommy Robredo profited from the seed that he received with Juan Martin Del Potro’s withdrawal by advancing further into the section vacated by Berdych.
Americans in Paris: John Isner and Ryan Harrison, both of whom have struggled for most of the year, each notched comfortable straight-sets victories. Assigned Nice champion Albert Montanes, Steve Johnson battled gallantly into a fifth set as he had against Nicolas Almagro at the Australian Open. American men have no reason to feel shame so far at historically their worst major.
Question of the day: Who comes out of Berdych’s section of the draw to reach the quarterfinals?
Question of the day, II: Does Nadal’s first-round frailty reduce your confidence in him as a title threat?
Match of the day: None could compete with Berdych-Monfils or with Urszula-Venus the day before. This award goes to a battle between two clay-courters who have produced outstanding recent results. Rome semifinalist Simona Halep won the first set from world No. 20 Carla Suarez Navarro, but the Spaniard rallied with the form that brought her to two clay finals this year. A pity that the draw forced them to meet in the first round, and a pity that the match was not scheduled on a televised court.
Comeback of the day: Channeling a little of her inner Monfils, Garbine Muguruza scorched 46 winners and dropped serve just twice in three sets to ambush fellow power-hitter Karolina Pliskova. The Venezuelan-born citizen of Spain recorded her first career win at Roland Garros barely a year after her first appearance in a WTA main draw.
Statements of the day: Although they fell a bit short of Serena’s suffocating brilliance, top-four seeds Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska started the tournament in emphatic style. Defending champion Sharapova conceded just three games to top-50 opponent Hsieh Su-wei, while Radwanska yielded just two games to former top-15 player Shahar Peer. The latter result came as a mild surprise because of the newly blonde Pole’s struggles on clay this year.
Gold star: Everyone thought that Laura Robson would knock off world No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki in the first round, and everyone thought very wrong. Wozniacki ended a five-match losing streak by dominating the British teenager from start to finish. Perhaps a movie night with Rory McIlroy the day before (they saw Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained) allowed her to forget her recent futility.
Silver star: The most unsurprising surprise of the day came when the 2009 Roland Garros champion dispatched compatriot Ekaterina Makarova. In Serena’s quarter, Kuznetsova could meet Wozniacki in a rematch of their Australian Open three-set thriller. Sveta bounced back impressively from one of the worst losses of her career in Rome.
Wooden spoon: Outstanding performances on grass last year meant that Tamira Paszek received a seed at Roland Garros despite winning only one match in 2013. When the slightly less moribund Melanie Oudin dispatched her with ease, Paszek will head to the grass season with the vast majority of points at stake. Early losses at Eastbourne and Wimbledon will push her ranking down an elevator shaft.
Americans in Paris: In addition to the aforementioned Oudin, several other women from the United States fared well on Day 2. Bethanie Mattek-Sands set up a second-round meeting with Li Na, while newer talents Varvara Lepchenko and Madison Keys cruised. Vania King also advanced in straight sets to complete a perfect record today for the USA.
Question of the day: Which American woman of those who won day will go furthest?
Question of the day, II: Should we feel more impressed by Wozniacki or more disappointed by Robson?